The Nobel Prize-winning scientist usually speaks of the world of research as a privileged area of society, where merit and rationality always prevail. It is a gentle narrative in which it is easy to find sanctuary in the marathon of the honorary degrees, corporate events, and related speeches that fall to the winner. Physicist Giorgio Baresi chose a different path, taking advantage of the Nobel Prize to articulate the fragility of science rather than its theological virtues. This is the meaning of the article between science and politics Recently published for Futura Editrice (pg. 112, Euro 15), Baresi has collected three decades of articles and speeches on the relationship between society and the scientific community, mostly published in He appears. As he himself explains in a personal interview introductory to the article, the publication is also an act of solidarity: the rights will remain with the publishing house associated with CGIL as compensation for damages suffered during the assault on the Corso d’Italia headquarters by a handful of neo-fascists in 2021.
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Paris report with poster It was not accidental. “My good friend Marco Deramo, then editor-in-chief of the newspaper, suggested to me in the eighties that I do a monthly column on topics of my choice,” explains the physicist. “It was a great communications training ground.” In his interventions, Parisi speaks of science seen from the inside, without hiding its less rich aspects. For example, he mentions the names and titles of scientists who are best at nurturing their image, knowing that in current science, social standing helps find funding. The embellished names of the scientific community like René Thom – physicist of the “catastrophe theory” – or Benoit Mandelbrot, who stormed his colleagues with letters complaining: “You didn’t remind me”, were “excellent press agents for themselves”.
Or again Ilya Prigozhin, author of “A Press Campaign That Might Have Helped Him Get a Nobel Prize.” It is an implication of science that “presents itself as a vast industrial sector, in which various firms, all devoted to the production of scientific knowledge, operate in competition with one another”. Hence the attempt to publicize scientific institutions in the same language as “Announcing Poetry: Before Treatment and After Treatment.”
In Parisi’s essays, there are references that today seem prophetic, such as that “negative image that pervades science, the fall of the image that regards ecology and the crisis of rational progressivism together as symptoms, causes, and effects.” It sounds like today’s editorial but in an article from 1988, the future nobel laureate did not miss the fact that even a homeopathy scam had to question the scientific community in some way.
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It was already clear at that time Paradox: Never before has technology shaped every aspect of our individual and collective lives, yet we have a childlike relationship with science. Parisi tries to solve it in his own way: «When public opinion directly connects science and cutting-edge technology, bypassing the hard mediating work, it consolidates the ‘magical’ dimension of science, reinforces the myth of the world, the oracle of ‘truth’ is natural’. In the name of the “myth”, the scientist is asked questions on topics in which he is most of an expert, even at the risk of making a fool of himself. As Parisi recounts, this happened even to another Nobel, quark discoverer Murray Gell-Mann, who asked the American generals who consulted him on military strategies in Vietnam, “Is this ear-cutting policy really effective?” As if the scientific method is the correct tool for assessing the atrocities of war.
On several occasions, the author has returned to the character of physicist Marcello Ceni – one of the “bad teachers” in his seventies – and toThe bee and the architect, the book that made experts and citizens debate “the impartiality of science.” Parisi writes that this method “still has a lot to teach.” However, the critical debate about the social role of science has disappeared from academic life. Who knows, maybe the Nobel Prize will also succeed in bringing scientists back into the discussion.
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